Powerful Dramatic Series for
Family Literacy and Adult
presents Madison Heights, a 10-episode series
that combines distinctive aspects of television drama
and documentary to present real life and engaging
stories of families struggling to improve themselves and
their position in the larger community. The show
revolves around Madison Heights School, a K-8 school
with an after-school child care program.
Madison Heights encourages parents to read to,
and with, their children - an important aim of the No
Child Left Behind Act and traditional literacy programs.
Along with sister show
Lifelines, the series was created through a
unique collaboration of nine State Departments of
Education and the United States Department of Education,
Office of Vocational and Adult Education and the Office
of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Synopses of Madison Heights Episodes:
The Ties That Bind:
Follows the Garcia family as it attempts to recover
from the devastating loss of its eldest son. The impact
is greatest on younger brother Ricky, who had been an
excellent student, but recently has done poorly in
school. Meanwhile, Ricky's teacher, David Harper, is
struggling with his own problems. His father has just
died, and his relationship with his mother is difficult
at best. At first, Harper is impatient with Ricky's
apparent lack of effort. But when he comes to understand
what is causing it, his attitude changes, not only
towards Ricky but towards his own mother.
Deals with the impact of a family's decision not to
vaccinate their child on a community and on a
friendship. Amy Tran, an Asian-American, has been
friends since high school with Charlene Miller. But in
light of her brother's severe reaction to a pertussis
vaccine years earlier, Amy decides not to have her own
son vaccinated when he and Charlene's son start
kindergarten. Charlene's husband is outraged,
particularly because of a recent outbreak of pertussis
in Madison Heights. Arguing that Amy's decision is
subjecting other children to unnecessary risks, he leads
a protest against the Tran family that culminates in a
dramatic confrontation between himself and the Trans.
A Day in the Life:
Follows an unemployed African-American woman named
Roberta through a long day of frustration and despair.
Despite her best efforts, Roberta's attempts to find
work lead nowhere. As she struggles through the day,
Roberta endures a variety of trying and de-humanizing
experiences. Towards the end of the episode, we learn
that Roberta is the single parent of a young son, whom
she is desperately trying to shield from the harsh
realities of a life lived in poverty.
The story of a father and his adult son who attempt to
come to terms with each other after several years of
estrangement. When Stan Radzinski has a stroke, his son
Tom, feels he has no choice but to leave his own wife
and son behind, and fly across the country to care for
his ailing father. During the course of their time
together, they finally deal with a devastating family
tragedy that took place years before - a tragedy that
lead to the enormous chasm between them.
Looks at the impact of gang life on two brothers,
Omar and Ramon Vasquez. As a result of a crime committed
during his brief affiliation with a gang, twelve year
old Omar is sentenced to six years in a juvenile
detention facility. When he is finally released, Omar
tries to get his life back on track, but faces a variety
of serious obstacles that stand in his way. At the same
time, he discovers that his younger brother (Ramon) has
also been seduced by the lure of gang life. Ultimately,
Omar must not only convince himself to persevere, but
must also persuade his brother to renounce life in a
gang, continue his schooling and develop his natural
talent as an artist.
Miracle Workers - Part I:
When Maria is brought to the hospital by her
non-English speaking Hispanic parents, the child is in
serious need of medical attention. Her parents resist,
however, because they are more comfortable having her
treated by a "curandero," or spiritual healer. Maria's
American doctor, Phillip Hansen, views the curandero's
efforts as useless or even worse because, in his view,
they are preventing Maria form getting the care she
needs. As Dr. Hansen grapples with Maria's deteriorating
medical condition, as well as the growing resentment of
his family for all the time he spends at the hospital,
he gets the shocking news that his own father has
suffered a serious head injury, which requires that he
be put on life support.
Miracle Workers - Part II:
When Maria's family refuses to give her the medication
Dr. Hansen has prescribed, he calls the Department of
Child Protective Services, which removes the child from
her family's home. Eventually a compromise is reached,
but it proves to be short-lived, as Maria's family
leaves the area suddenly without a word to anyone. As
his father's life comes to an end, Dr. Hansen struggles
to revive his crumbling marriage and emerge from his
recent struggles as a wiser, more compassionate person,
both in the hospital and at home.
God Bless the Child:
The story of two desperate characters whose lives
intersect. Kevin McCauley is a ten year old boy who
lives with his mother and her abusive boyfriend, and
struggles in school with a learning disability. Mr.
Jenkins is the school janitor who, despite his own
battle with growing dementia, teaches Kevin to read.
Although each of them faces formidable obstacles, Kevin
and Jenkins manage to reach each other in a way that is
both touching and life-affirming.
Traces the efforts of Susan Gennaro, a woman who has
recently been released from prison after six and a half
years of incarceration, as she attempts to re-build a
relationship with her ten year old daughter, Katie.
During the course of the story, Katie must confront a
variety of painful truths, including the fact that her
mother is a recovering alcoholic who served time because
of a fatal auto accident caused by her drinking.
Eleven-year-old Maria Betancourt is trying to fit in
at school, after she and her family have recently moved
to Madison Heights. She is so desperate not to appear
"different" from other students that she doesn't let on
about her family's South American origins. She even goes
so far as to tell everyone her name is actually Mary.
But when her aunt from Colombia comes to stay with the
Betancourts for several weeks, Maria's deception slowly
begins to unravel. Eventually, she must come to terms
with her own identity and accept her family's history.